Racing down our Alps’

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Spectacular Queenstown scenery from the Remarkables will be shared by 100 gutsy riders in a new wild-country race. 

The upcoming Queenstown Mountain Bike Festival includes a brand-new event, the Mega Avalanche, that’s expected to push even the world’s best downhill riders to the limit. 

Riders start on the main ridge line and descend 440 vertical metres through sheep tracks, rocky drops and tussocks before hitting the ski access road and then on to the National Series downhill course to the Kawarau Falls farm at the valley floor. It’s a total drop of 1650m – expected to take about 25 minutes. 

“This is wild country riding – not for the faint-hearted,” festival organiser Geoff Hunt says. 

Queenstown’s Mega Avalanche – to be held on March 31 – is based on the world-famous ‘Megavalanche’ in the French Alps. 

While the Euro version attracts hundreds of competitors all starting at once, permission for the local race is capped at 100 riders starting in smaller groups of about 20. 

“We’ve got a one-off permit from the Department of Conservation to run this event,” says Hunt, who tested out the course with a group of prominent local riders (above) last Saturday. 

“It’s a trial this year and if we can show that the bikes don’t damage the countryside, we’ll be able to do it again next year.” 

The programme for the third annual local festival from March 22-April 1 has been released. 

Events attracting bikers of all abilities include the return of the hugely-popular downtown slopestyle, the Tour de Wakatipu and the Dirtmasters Downhill. 

Meanwhile, Queenstown’s amateur downhill race series continued last weekend with its second round. 

Local rider Michael Chinnery Brown recorded the fastest time, winning the men’s race on the National Series downhill course at the Remarkables with a time of 2min 15sec. 

Harriet Latchem followed on from her first race victory by winning the women’s section in 2.20sec, while Zen Thompson won the groms (juniors) in 2.19sec.